Use a Remote Control Robot to Roam a Closed Museum Right Now

Remember way back in February when we reported that this summer you'd be able to remotely control robots to explore the Tate Britain After Dark Well—it's (finally) this summer, and now's your chance! Starting this very minute, you can check out the live footage of four bots gone wild—and sign up to make them move from the comfort of your laptop.

It will be pretty cool to see this ambitious proposal become reality, because when it was announced one of the biggest question marks was: "How the hell are they going to make this happen?"


Well: After winning the IK Prize with their concept, Ross Cairns and Tommaso Lanza—aka London-based digital product design studio The Workers—were approached by the research and technology stars at RAL Space, who are usually working to develop new tools for space exploration. The team turned their attention to this terrestrial project, and helped create the chassis for the robots: a circular base, 24-inches in diameter, with a kind of bumper around the bottom that acts as a kind of kill-switch. If it comes in contact with anything the bot will shut down.

In addition to the camera and LED spotlights that give them a decidedly anthropomorphic edge, each will operate using sonar to navigate (like flesh-and-blood bats!). After that, it's up to the internet-connected public to live out their own kind of futuristic From the Mixed Up Files… and Night at the Museum fantasies.

Still not quite convinced it's possible? Everyone's favorite astronaut Chris Hadfield already took one of them for a spin from his Toronto studio. As he explained in the vid above, the experience was so seamless that he got all kinds of caught up in examining the art in this new way, rather than focusing on the fact he was so far removed from the site itself.


You can tune in to the livestream from 10:00 pm until 3:00am GMT this and every eve through August 17th.


Think you can avoid ramming a J.M.W. Turner and keep clear of the William Blakes? A request form should be posted here now that the festivities have begun, so keep refreshing, good luck, and please for the love of everything that's holy don't burn the place down (or pull a Thomas Crown. Remember, the whole world is watching...). Here's hoping everything goes off without a hitch.

You'll Soon Be Able To Explore Museums After Dark Using These Robots

It's already a pretty great time to be a couch-bound art lover, and this summer the gallery experience is getting even more futuristic—because anyone with a working Wi-Fi connection will be able to sign up to pilot light- and camera-clad robots around the Tate Britain late at night, offering a self-guided tour with a drone's-eye-view.


The "After Hours" program is the winner of the very first IK Prize, which was created to foster concepts that use digital tech to get folks enjoying art. The project was created by Tommaso Lanza, Ross Cairns and David Di Duca—known together as digital production designers The Workers—and it's… well, it's kinda wild.

Here's the trio to talk about their plan:

So, they've managed to combine the illicit thrill of exploring somewhere that's usually so tightly guarded (not to mention crowded), and introduced the opportunity to poke around under the cover of darkness with no humans in sight.

But! That doesn't mean you'll be alone. The team is working on a queue system that will allow four visitors to tour at once, with the ability to communicate as they go. My heart started beating a little faster when they showed what the realtime streaming would look like. It feels totally heist-y, and what it lacks in clear, perfectly-lit views of the pieces, it more than makes up for in unprecedented access.

Maybe I'm a wuss, but the whole thing makes me just a teensy bit anxious, actually. The thought of rogue bots crashing into a Pollock or Hockney is more than a little nerve wracking. But I have faith these fellas know what they're doing (unless this is an elaborate hoax, in which case--boo). [BBC]